I know you’re probably thinking – but Jordanne, you just posted last week about a new way of writing book reviews, now you’re abandoning them?!
You’re not wrong and well done for remembering that past post, Treasured Reader.
Perhaps I should clarify what I mean by ‘Doing Away With The Traditional Book Review’. I originally wrote my previous post, Ultimate Book Review Checklist, as part of this overarching one but I felt I could do the topic justice better with two posts.
I still plan to review but as you might have noticed in that aforementioned post, I’m really not a fan of what is generally accepted as the ‘traditional review’ format as a way to effectively and authentically discuss books. They often end up looking and reading like book reports or, if they do hold enthusiasm, can only really convey it with a depth of analysis that isn’t really relative to a prospective reader (who will likely form the majority of the review’s audience).
I’ve been thinking a great deal about book reviewing lately because, though it is a core part of my reading, the very foundation of this blog, it’s a stifling way to reflect on a book.
And, that is what reviewing is really isn’t it? As well as trying to entice new readers, the reviewing process is a great way to stimulate personal reflection based on key themes and issues in a book, how they were handled, how that makes you feel about yourself and the world and if you have learned or gained something from that revelation.
This is something reviewers, and in particular book bloggers, think about and do subconsciously without really realising the personal development process they go through each time they consider what to include in their review and their own point of view on it. This is a valuable thing because even though I am in the group that groans when my employer or tutor announces the time for self-reflection and personal development, I know I wouldn’t be who I am today without those exercises – and now I’m getting yet another spin-off post idea … you see how great PD can be?
Back to my original point, despite all I’ve said above, I have to ask the question…
Are reviews really worth it?
I do not need to explain that book reviews are an important part of the book and publishing community, so I won’t.
My focus is more on how we review.
Any book blogger will tell you (as they told me, though I didn’t listen at the time) book reviews are not traffic generators or massively popular posts in the grand scheme of things – not that that is what matters but look at it this way:
- if you do this (blog) for traffic, income and ratings it means ROI (return on investment) for reading, reviewing and promoting that book is poor to mediocre at best if it doesn’t generate as much traffic as say, a list post, which comparatively takes far less time.
- if you do this as a hobby (like me!) or as a way to help promote new books and authors for fun, no matter what those statistics mean to you personally, you’re not succeeding in that goal because no traffic means people aren’t reading what you’re writing.
If a review does get a click or some traffic, it’s rare someone will read it in full in order to truly take in what you have to say and I know this because I do the exact same thing. I’ve written over 40 reviews this year yet I doubt I’ve read even half that many properly.
There are two kinds of people seeing my book reviews:
1) People who have read the book, who might be curious about your deep analysis of one particular character’s flaws but has their own opinion and might not care to read it all;
2) Someone who hasn’t read the book and does not have a clue what you’re on about or why they should care, they’re probably reading the review to answer one question and one question only:
Why should I read this book?
It’s a difficult and subjective question to answer but, speaking personally, it’s all I really want any book review to tell me so I asked myself: why aren’t my reviews structured around this same question?
Well, because that’s not the ‘norm’. Google ‘how to write a book review’ or something similar and the bulk of content you will be inundated with will offer a very long list of stuff you should be talking about and really ought to include and this question may be included in that, or it may not but it’ll be buried amongst a lot of dross that in my humble opinion, is just not necessary.
This is no detrimental comment to the traditional reviewers out there, I love you guys – you do an amazing job, and I do read your reviews of the books I had strong feelings about myself to see what others thought but … probably not before I’ve read the book myself.
This has nothing to do with spoilers, I’m the rare breed of reader that can enjoy a book spoilers be damned, but even though reviews are often very insightful they are also very subjective and personal and, for me, don’t answer that all-important question – why should I read this book?
What do I want to be included in a book review?
Well, as I said before that kind of turned into a whole new post you can check out here but here’s a summary:
But this all sounds so clinical, and … boring
Well, yeah. I’m going to try and make it not be (with the help of my brilliant humour and quick wit – sarcasm, I’ll just write my thoughts down and see what happens) and hopefully you’ll stick with my reviews to see how that turns out but in as much as this decision is making me feel better about my upcoming reviews – and my ability to promote those books more effectively – it also makes me a little sad because …
I love writing about books
I love a book that inspires me to take a deep dive analysis of key issues in modern pop culture using one key event or write a character study exploring how said character could negatively/positively impact a social issue relevant to me. I was an English Literature student, 1500 words dissecting a 5-word quote from a 700-page book and it’s outward effects in terms of plot and symbolism – that’s my jam! (I sound like such a nerd, right now (me to me: because you are)).
Though I’m sure no one wants to read that last example, I don’t want to give up writing about the books that inspire me. So, now that I’ve reduced my workload drastically, it’s probably a good time to triple what it was before, right? Right.
Solution: More Book Based Discussion Posts
Weeks ago Evelina @ Avalinah’s Books did her regular Weekly Wrap Up in which she shared a Tweet in which she mused over the importance and worthwhileness of traditional, formal reviews and a new way to pose and ponder bookish thoughts.
I kind of threw this idea on the incredibly crowded and dusty ‘think about this later when you have the skill and/or time to do it justice’ shelf of my mind but the memory of this post (trademark of an amazing Book Blogger, Evelina, you’re my hero) resurfaced as I wrote my most recent comic book review, Batman: White Knight.
It ran on way too long but the concept of the book was just so fascinating I couldn’t help myself and I so, so, so loved talking about it. Whilst I don’t intend for my comic book reviews to adhere to my new review structure as strictly as my regular book reviews (since there are the added considerations of accessibility, the wider narrative of comic book canon and artwork) it made me think about past book reviews I’d fallen this deeply into. The ones I had to strip back, hiding my deeper thoughts in an archive folder or the vast abyss of the Ctrl+X function.
This is not a feeling I get for every book, so my reviews vary drastically and honestly, you can hear/read my lack of enthusiasm in my writing if I’m not feeling it.
So my new plan (starting now), which honestly I feel I need to accredit to Evelina, is two types of posts going forward:
1. A review-esque post titled with the book’s USP OR(if I’m not confident I’ve distilled the book’s essence) ‘Why You Should Read [This Book] by [This Author]’
- This, I plan to write in the format discussed above and here and should hopefully not exceed 300 words (or 500 for Comic Books/Graphic Novels)
2. A Book or Character Based Discussion Post Posed as a Question
I know that I’m hardly reinventing the wheel here (like seriously, I’m not sure why there is a whole post about this complete non-idea of mine) but I feel declaring this boldly will apply the right amount of inferred peer pressure to go through with it.
I really want the second type of post, the discussion post, to be very much focused on one particular book and/or question, with a conscious effort that it could act as promotion as well as a piece of general interest. These I feel will also be a great segway to discussion posts I’ve always wanted to write about wider issues that have been inspired by a particular book but have felt they come off to review-y to be a discussion or to discussion-y to be a review. A revussion, if you will.
My theory is that if I convince someone to read a book I thought was amazing with my review, they may be more inclined to hear my thoughts and feelings in more detail separately, on a later, rainier day (hopefully).
This isn’t just about readers, it’s for my own mental wellbeing too. (Work is so crazy right now, I need flexibility and structure, which I realise is an oxymoron but I feel like this is as close to a flexible structure as I’ll get.) It’s mentally draining to write about things you just don’t care or aren’t truly passionate about, especially when you have about a dozen other things going on at the same time. I also think my current method for reviewing is sporadic and patchy at best and I feel I do the books, their authors and their potential readers a disservice with my inconsistency.
The bottom line is, I don’t want to give up reviewing but I think it’s time I started doing it on my own terms instead of feeling inadequate that I can’t produce a quote-worthy review tantamount to that found in published journals.
I like books, and I want to talk about them.
That’s it, that’s my point of view.
Please, please, please let me know what you think about this – and about your preferences for reviews too!
Until next time! (also thinking of a new sign off Bruce-Almighty-Style)